Period Flu? What It Really Means If You Have Flu-Like Symptoms Before Your Period

Photo: Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash
Period Flu Flu-Like Symptoms Before Your Period
Self, Health And Wellness

If you feel run down and have flu-like symptoms in the days leading up to your period, it’s not your imagination. In fact, many women experience flu-like symptoms during their period, including tiredness, headache, cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

According to Jill Hechtman, MD, Medical Director of Tampa Obstetrics, “These symptoms are related to elevated levels of prostaglandins in your system.” But what does that mean?

RELATED: The Reason Your Legs Cramp During Your Period & How To Make It Stop​

Gynecologist Padmavati Garvey, MD explains, "When the lining of the uterus is shed, a number of hormones are released called tumor-necrosis factors (TNFs). These compounds cause flu-like symptoms that are typical before the period starts, like muscle aches, headaches, and so on. "It is very common, and many women can sense their period is about to start because they feel these symptoms."

It's actually not uncommon to have some flu-like symptoms with a period. But that won't always be the case. Here are some reasons why you could be experiencing what you may think is the flu during your period.

1. It’s not the flu, it just feels like it.

Believe it or not, those symptoms are not the flu, it just feels like it. One big difference is not having a fever, but getting your annual flu shot doesn't prevent this.

“The prostaglandins cause an inflammatory response in the body and this is why people feel flu-like,” advises Dr. Hechtman.

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2. You're experiencing chemical reactions.

"At the time of a period, the uterus releases a chemical known as prostaglandin, which is the 'lovely' chemical that makes us have menstrual cramps (it contracts smooth muscles)," says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, one of the leading gynecologists in the country, who currently sits on Vagisil’s new vSHEC Council.

However, it can also contract the smooth muscle of the stomach and intestines, giving us nausea and diarrhea.

RELATED: 40 Funny Period Quotes About Menstruation That'll Make You Laugh During 'That Time Of The Month'​

3. Of course, it may actually be the flu.

If you get these symptoms every period, you aren’t getting the flu every four weeks. But if you are clocking a high temperature right now, chances are you have the flu and it is just overlapping with your period. Lucky you!

"A fever that is an elevation in body temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit would be a sign of an actual infection, most typically a viral infection. So if a woman has an actual fever, then she may be dealing with a cold coming on rather than symptoms due to her period," says Dr. Garvey.

But before you panic, there are a few things you can do to alleviate your flu-like symptoms and find some kind of relief.

  • Stock up on meds. “In some women, we recommend taking anti-inflammatory medications like Naprosyn/Anaprox,” advises Dr. Hechtman. This medication helps blocks the inflammatory response.
  • Regulate your cycle. “In women who have severe symptoms, we can place them on hormones (like the birth control pill) to prevent this,” Dr. Hechtman says.
  • Consider changing your cycle. Decreasing the number of periods a woman has can decrease these flu-like symptoms. So, according to Dr. Hechtman, “You do not need your period monthly, and when women have negative effects from their period, eradicating it helps tremendously!”

RELATED: 6 Effective Ways To Make Your Period Come Faster​

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her at